Choose Plastic Free Chewing Gum

Plastic Free Chewing Gum - Choose Your Gum Wisely

Every item we buy, including the tiny ones, have more impact than we realise. Unfortunately, many of these small purchasing decisions could come with negative consequences. Chewing gum is one decision that could hurt people and the planet. Thankfully today you can choose plastic-free chewing gum.

You may not realise it, but most modern chewing gum contains plastic, and manufacturers derive them from finite and polluting petroleum products. When you choose plastic-free chewing gum, you are taking one small step towards a more ethical and sustainable future.

Why Choose Plastic Free Chewing Gum?

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Person blowing a chewing gum bubble

Photo by Karina Miranda on Unsplash

There are several reasons why consuming and the impact of plastic chewing gum is a problem. Here are just some of the reasons to make sure you are not part of this problem, and, if you choose to chew gum, that you make the switch to plastic-free options.

  • Making plastic involves mining the fossil fuels that we should be keeping in the ground.
  • It also involves the use of yet more fossil fuels and the emission of greenhouse gases during manufacture.
  • Plastic gum is not biodegradable. It creates a waste problem that, quite literally, sticks around. While we can recycle gum to make plastic products, recycling options are few and far between. And the new plastic items that we make cannot themselves be recycled, so there is still a waste problem to contend with.
  • Discarded plastic chewing gum despoils city streets and urban landscapes. Cleaning it up is a massive logistical problem for authorities and costs a huge amount of public money each year.
  • Plastic gum can be a choking hazard and may cause an intestinal blockage (especially in children).
  • Many have raised concerns that vinyl acetate (one potential ingredient in plastic chewing gum) could be a carcinogen, and pose a threat to human health (though most recent studies including in Canada determined that it does not pose a threat to human health1).

Nonetheless, there are concerns over a range of other gum ingredients, several of which many believe to potentially cause harm to humans (and animals).

Plastic-Free Chewing Gum

Most chewing gums list 'gum base' as one of their ingredients. This, you might say, potentially hides a multitude of sins from people buying regular chewing gum. All too often, it is worryingly difficult to determine what is actually in your favourite brands of gum.

Fortunately, there are a few all-natural, plastic-free, biodegradable gums out there to consider. Choosing these options rather than opting for damaging brands is one more way to live in a more ethical, sustainable and eco-friendly way.

Of course, plastic-free, natural and biodegradable chewing gum has a range of benefits. It not only avoids the problems with plastic outlined above. Choosing it can also help you avoid a range of unhealthy or environmentally damaging ingredients.

Brands To Consider

Simply Gum Variety Pack:

(🔗 amazon) This product is handmade in New York City. It contains only vegetable glycerine, raw sugar, organic rice flour, and natural flavouring.

Chikza Gum:

(🔗 amazon) – In Mexico, they harvest this chewing gum from Chicozapote trees in the Mayan rainforest and contains just five simple ingredients.

Glee Gum:

(🔗 amazon) – Due to consumer pressure, Glee gum switched from a plastic chewing gum formulation to one made from chicle, calcium carbonate, candelilla wax, and citrus peels. This gum also comes in biodegradable packaging.

Chewsy Gum:

(🔗 amazon) - All Chewsy gums are naturally plant-based, vegan and biodegradable. They are made with a plastic-free gum base.

The Humble Co. Natural Gum:

(🔗 amazon) - The Humble Co. Natural Gum – All natural ingredients, no plastic, and every Humble purchase goes towards funding oral health projects for children in need.


As more people learn about the plastic in their gum, and look for better and more sustainable alternatives, the number of all-natural, plastic-free, biodegradable chewing gum options is on the rise. If you enjoy chewing gum, consider switching to a plastic-free option not just for environmental benefits, but to give these sustainable brands better market share.

History of Chewing Gum

Chewing gum has been a habit for humans since Neolithic times. Researchers discovered a birch bark tar gum with tooth marks in Finland which shows that this habit is over 6,000 years old. Many ancient civilisations independently developed gums from natural substances, such as mastic tree bark, chicle, sugar pine or spruce sap etc.

However, it was only in the 19th Century that gum became a commercialized product. In the United States, New England settlers picked up the habit from native peoples. John B. Curtis then developed and sold the first commercial chewing gum in Maine in 1848. This was a natural spruce based gum.

In around 1850, however, everything changed. An inventor made a new gum which used not a plant material but paraffin wax – a petroleum product made from fossil fuels. It was around this time that what we might recognise as modern chewing gum was born. Around ten years later, John Colgan, in Kentucky, created the first flavoured gum, known as 'Taffy Tolu'.

Over the next few decades, modern gums took off. Several early commercial chewing gums created in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century are still around today. The military included chewing gum in the rations of American GIs and their deployments during the Second World War spread the gum-chewing habit and saw it take off in Europe and around the world.

Most modern gums have now switched from natural, plant-based ingredients to synthetic ingredients from finite and polluting fossil fuels. These synthetic ingredients might include Butadiene-styrene rubber, Isobutylene-isoprene copolymer (butyl rubber), Paraffin (via the Fischer-Tropsch process), Petroleum wax, Petroleum wax synthetic, Polyethylene, Polyisobutylene or Polyvinyl acetate.

The Size of the Chewing Gum Market

Industry experts forecast that the global chewing gum market could reach USD 22.27 billion by 20242. Between 2019 and 2024, they expect it to rise by 4.3%. While the consumption of sugared chewing gum is decreasing, sugar-free options are increasingly popular.

The global market is strongest in North America, followed by Europe. And the Asia Pacific region is seeing demand increase at the fastest rate.

If chewing gum does not interest you, then you may not consider this as a major problem. But as the figures above show, chewing gum is here to stay.

Healthier gums are increasing in popularity. And this is an issue that those interested in sustainability should consider. The staggering amount of gum chewed (and disposed of irresponsibly) around the world is a major concern.

Conclusion

As consumers, we have to remember that we have the power to create positive change. By refusing to buy plastic chewing gum, we can help to put pressure on bigger brands to make the switch away from polluting, harmful and unsustainable ingredients.

So next time you reach for some gum, make sure you know what is hiding in it. Chewing gum is not essential. But if you do want to chew it, make the right choices and say no to options that harm both your health and the environment.

Jennifer is a content writer with an educational background in Public Relations and Advertising. From her desk in Lagos, Nigeria, she helps businesses around the world reach and connect with their audiences.
Photo by Andreas Haslinger on Unsplash
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